There is so much to think about when starting your own practice. Don’t forget these four essential legal considerations.
The RCVS Practice Standards Scheme, a voluntary accreditation scheme, provides quality assurance for practices and their facilities.
Whilst voluntary, it is a requirement of the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons that practices must at least meet its core standards of compliance with legal and health and safety requirements. This is encapsulated within the professional responsibilities of a veterinary practice.
To meet the core standards we advise those setting up a new practice to consult the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme.
Recruiting competent and adequate staff resource is key to practice success.
Early considerations of resource requirement and following vigorous recruitment practices are essential steps to ensure staff are well-led, well-managed and not over-stretched.
Remembering to document recruitment processes avoids future issues: putting signed employment contracts in place, requesting references and checking Right to Work documents are fundamental considerations.
Likewise, future planning HR needs by producing a handbook, disciplinary and grievance procedures is time well spent for when inevitable staffing queries – or more significant issues – arise.
What legal structure is your practice going to take? Are you going to operate your business as a sole trader, partnership or a limited company? Tax and accountancy advice is crucial when making a decision, however, often veterinary practices are established as limited companies.
Limited companies are advantageous from a legal perspective as they are established as separate legal entities; limiting personal exposure to liability. If there is going to be more than one shareholder (owner) of the new business, it is crucial that you consider entering into a shareholder’s agreement to govern the relationship between the shareholders.
How the property is occupied – purchased outright or leased – is a key decision.
If the start-up has a healthy cash pot, it is worth investing in a freehold property owned by individuals and leased back to the company. The landlord and the tenant will be related parties, retaining control of important items: rent, rent reviews, dilapidations.
If purchase is not viable, opt to enter into a lease with a third-party landlord. Remember when negotiating the terms of occupation: break clauses (allowing the break of the lease at certain times), repair clause (qualified by a photographic schedule of condition), rent review based on the open market, and a lease within the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 for security of tenure (to renew on the same terms).